How the Brain Reacts to Traumatic Grief

How the Brain Reacts to Traumatic Grief

There are many things to keep in mind when considering events that are described as “traumatic” and capable of causing considerable and long lasting grief. Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that the response of someone who has experienced a traumatic event is due to intense chemical changes in the brain. This means it is usually completely natural and often not under the control of the individual. Expecting someone who gone through a traumatizing event to get over it is unrealistic, counterproductive and insensitive. None of us can simply “snap out of it” so expecting that is not realistic and completely lacking in empathy.


Because the reactions have a biochemical basis, the prolonged nature of a series of traumatic events or the severity of even a single event can cause mental disorders. These may be due to trauma or grief and sometimes both. We will discuss trauma and grief separately to develop a better understanding. Even so, it is important to understand they are interconnected and that trauma is often followed by severe grief and sorrow. If the initiating events are severe enough, disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder can develop. In the worst case scenario, both disorders render the patient incapable of continuing their life and they cannot remain functional. These disorders are diagnosed illnesses of the brain and should be treated as such by seasoned and qualified treatment professionals.


There are a number of events that can cause significant trauma such as the loss of a loved one or being subject to sexual abuse, rape and bullying among others. During the event itself, a “flight, freeze or fight mechanism” is initiated in our brain caused by the release of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. Our body responds to prepare for danger by increasing breathing and heart rate and directing a large amount of blood flow to our muscles to face the danger and as such we experience anxiety, fear, panic and stress.


If the events are severe enough, the brain is rewired to respond to stimuli even long after the event has passed. Sometimes these stimuli are only remotely related to the event and in severe cases may have no relation to the event whatsoever! The region in our brain known as the hippocampus is responsible for converting short term to long term memory. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can cause reduction of volume of this area and this causes the brain to have difficulty distinguishing past events from the present which often causes these triggers to occur. PTSD also causes reduction in the volume of the prefrontal lobe of the cerebral cortex; an area in the brain responsible for controlling the amygdala of the brain which causes these emotional responses. The amygdala then becomes hyperactive leading to increased response to often innocuous stimuli.

As a result of all this the patient undergoes flashbacks, nightmares and experiences panic and fear to any event that can remotely trigger the memory of the initial trauma. This entire process can be solved with proper medication and psychotherapy with a specially trained professional.


Grief is the emotion encountered after a traumatic event. This motion can, at times, run its course. However, prolonged continuation of the same or even different traumatic encounters, can cause an individual to develop Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It is imperative to understand that this is a medically diagnosed disorder of the brain and that patients can’t simply fix themselves by trying to be happy or making an effort to go out more.


Patients will often isolate themselves and experience emotions of guilt and self loathing at times as well. They may feel a lack of energy when it comes to carrying out their regular activities and experience long bouts of sadness and gloom. Or they may perceive situations and the future in a negative light and with a lack of hope. Physical symptoms can also include feeling tired, muscle aches, headaches, nausea, insomnia and reduced or increased appetite. At their worst, they may be prone to self harm and immediate help is required.


Depression is linked to decreased levels of serotonin in the brain which becomes the biochemical cause of the feeling of gloom and the physical and emotional symptoms described. Depression is an illness that has to be treated with appropriate medication and psychotherapy with a seasoned professional.

Texas Recovery Support

The above discussion makes it crystal clear the trauma and grief aren’t emotions that any of us can simply snap out of or that should be taken lightly. They can progress to serious mental illness and hence appropriate measures should be taken to help and support the patient through the disorders associated with traumatic events.


Healing Retreat for Trauma

Healing Retreat for Trauma

In his book “The Body Keeps the Score”, Bessel van der Kolk beautifully examines the way trauma will often stay stuck in an individual’s body as well as their mind. As a result, their brain’s alarm system will go haywire and they become trapped in repetitive patterns of trauma re-creation.


Trauma Is Relative

Trauma is relative, and it is not how extreme an event is for us that determines whether or not it is “trauma”, rather it’s the way that negative experience is defining and controlling our life. Furthermore, for many people struggling with an unresolved trauma history, talk based therapies may not be enough to really help. For the trauma survivor, just talking about a traumatic event often produces feelings of being overwhelmed and even dissociation. The frontal, reasoning part of our brain will go off line and what is left “driving the bus” is our primal brain; the amygdala and the limbic system. So even though you may have a client nodding and responding to questions, they may very well be a thousand miles away. Disconnecting from body and mind has kept many people safe for a long time, and that learned defense mechanism will often still kick in, even in the therapy office.


In my private practice I sometimes have clients where there is only a certain point we can go to before it becomes unsafe. It is really hard to dive into someone’s deepest and darkest story when I know, and they know, that they have to pick up the kids from school in an hour. I am not saying that individual therapy is not helpful and effective, on the contrary – it absolutely is. But when it comes to severe trauma, people often need something more.


What Is Needed

Survivor’s of trauma need a sanctuary: A safe and controlled place where they can get vulnerable and let got of the pressure to hold themselves together. This is why I love working in week-long intensive therapy settings with trauma survivors. In these personal and powerful retreats we are able to engage that primal brain with both experiential and body based approaches. By removing someone from the responsibilities and distractions of daily life and providing them with 24-hour therapeutic support, they can finally let themselves unravel the trauma story that has been shaping who they are for far too long. Yes, it isn’t easy, it may require missing a couple days of work as well as a financial investment, but that is a very small price to pay to be truly free.

Written and offered by Brennon Moore, MS, CTT, CADC-II.

img_3327 img_3326

5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders

5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders

The path of a first responder is not for everyone. It takes an incredible dedication and a willingness to respond to a calling that demands and is emersed in personal sacrifice. Firefighters and police officers are professions with a very high committment to duty. They work to protect others which, sadly, also means that these are the professionals who are likely to experience Line of Duty Deaths within their ranks. One of the negative impacts that these tragic situations can have is commonly called Survivor’s Guilt.

Survivor’s Guilt is a reaction that might be experienced by officers or firefighters – especially when there is a death in the line of duty. It is not only those who survive the experience, but all those who are touched by the loss, indirectly and even through relationships with others who feel the loss. It might be expressed in self-directed feelings of guilt and anger if the person feels responsible for the death or feels guilty over being alive and trying to move on. Guilt is common among people who have experienced a loss due to natural causes, but it can be heightened in such situations due to the role a police officer or a firefighter might have as a protector.

If you or your department are facing such a tragic loss it is important to know that this reaction can be a part of a normal grieving process or it can become a significant factor preventing you and others from overcoming it. This is especially so if you don’t acknowledge the guilt or if you truly think that you should have done more or could have prevented it despite the objective circumstances.

So, what can be done about survivor’s guilt?

Here are 5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders, as well as some helpful resources:

1. Acknowledge its presence and normalcy

The first step to working with this guilt is for you to acknowledge that it exists. If we are suffering from this guilt we must work to identify what we are feeling as guilt and acknowledge whether it only appears in certain situations or is a constant feeling. It is important to work with the idea that this guilt is normal, that it is expected, but that it is not necessarily rational or reflects reality.

2. Seek help

If survivor’s guilt is preventing you from moving on, going back into the field, or disrupting your life, counseling or therapy with a seasoned professional who specializes in working with first responders and critical events may be recommended. While some officers or firefighters might feel apprehensive about the idea of goin to therapy, it can be a great asset and help work the guilt and other challenging effects that may arise in a safe and confidential environment. It is useful to encourage other officers to seek counseling or to support it within the system – especially since team cohesion is so important in these fields and not doing so could lead to higher risk to the whole team. Proactive departments will create a way for their team members to be able to easily access counseling anonymously.


3. Talk about it

It’s best to talk about survivor’s guilt in a safe environment, such as a therapeutic setting. However, if you can’t do this at the moment, talking about it to others can also help. Your department may even want to bring in a Critical Incident Stress Management professional to talk with the team on site. Some people you know might withdraw and avoid the conversations. They may feel stuck in a cycle of thoughts and overwhelmed by this feeling guilt. Talking to others about it can help reduce the feelings of guilt. It is important to find people that the first responder trusts and who will offer support and understanding.

4. Allow the grieving process to flow

Some of us find it especially hard to allow ourselves to feel sadness or experience grief. Others will focus on the guilt as it may offer them more control and be an emotion that is easier to deal with, as it places the emphasis on their own responsibility rather than on the reality of the death. It can be especially difficult when the loss is the result of an accident and without any forseeable malace. The grieving process is unique for every one of us and it is important that we allow it to occur. The grieving process is just that – a process, which takes time. Remember too, that the grief experience is both personal and unique.

5. Honor the people who have died

Your losses can not be undone, but they can be honored. If you or someone you know is struggling with survivor’s guilt you might find it helpful and grounding to try to find new ways to remember and honor those who have lost their lives. You can do this on a personal level by engaging in a honoring service to the community or by making a contribution to the community by creating a memorial fund, for instance. Every one of us can all find a noble way to honor the people who have lost their lives.


Survivor’s guilt is a natural reaction to an unnatural loss, especially with LODD among police officers and firefighters. This is a situation that you can improve with professional counseling or therapy and conversely become more problematic without help.


Safe Call Now offers anonymous, peer to peer support for peace officers and firefighters/rescue.

For first responders who are struggling with stress after a traumatic event as well as family/home stressors the one-week Living Centered program at Onsite can be a game changer.

La Hacienda, located in the Texas HillCountry offers addiction and substance dependence help – including a track specifically for first responders.

For more severe conditions, such as PTSD, treatment centers such as Sierra Tucson and The Meadows who are leaders in post-trauma services, may help.

CISM services in Texas and individual counseling services specific to First Responders, LODD, grief and traumatic events can be found at PIR, LLC.

Survivor’s Guilt and First Responders / Houston / Live Better Live Now

8 Things To Expect After A Traumatic Experience

8 Things To Expect After A Traumatic Experience

Еvеrу humаn bеіng who еxреrіеnсеѕ a trаumаtіс еvеnt hаѕ аn еmоtіоnаl rеасtіоn аnd mоѕt реорlе wrеѕtlе wіth vаrіоuѕ іѕѕuеѕ fоr some tіmе аftеr thе event. Addіtіоnаllу, most PTS sufferer’s rеѕоlvе their issues еіthеr on their оwn or with professional соunѕеlіng within a fеw months оf thе trаumа, while a few ѕuffеr a реrmаnеnt loss of the quality of lіfе. Althоugh the ԛuеѕtіоn оf реrmаnеnt emotional dаmаgе is mоѕt оftеn rеlаtеd tо whеthеr there іѕ аnу residual рhуѕісаl disability оr whether the PTS ѕuffеrеr іѕ the vісtіm of a реrѕоnаl attack оr insurmountable loss. Hоwеvеr, thе bоttоm lіnе is thаt emotional responses аrе аll subjective. Thе medical еxреrt who trеаtѕ the PTS раtіеnt does nоt hаvе аnу dеfіnіtіvе test like a blood сhеmіѕtrу report that іdеntіfіеѕ a trеаtаblе or реrmаnеnt аdvеrѕе condition.


Thе Dіаgnоѕіѕ аnd Hоw іt Wоrkѕ

Psychology, аѕ an artful and ѕсіеntіfіс bоdу оf knowledge, dіffеrѕ from mеdісіnе аnd оthеr allied рrоfеѕѕіоnѕ wіth one basic, іmроrtаnt distinction; it studies hоw humаnѕ rеѕроnd to past, existing аnd potential рrоblеmѕ. Aѕ such, since trаumа іѕ defined аѕ a lіfе-аltеrіng event, we рrоvіdе соріng assistance for раіn, mеntаl аnguіѕh, рhоbіаѕ, асutе anxiety, panic, irritability and the lіkе. It all bоіlѕ down tо a сhаngе in how thе trаumаtіzеd реrѕоn іntеrасtѕ wіth his/her environment аnd vаrіоuѕ соmmunіtіеѕ (ѕсhооl, wоrk, place of wоrѕhір, home, еxtеndеd fаmіlу, friends, neighbors, оrgаnіzаtіоnѕ etc.). To that end, thеrе аrе a number оf ѕресіfіс mаnіfеѕtаtіоnѕ оf реорlе’ѕ rеѕроnѕеѕ that thе рrоfеѕѕіоn has іdеntіfіеd in tеrmѕ оf dіаgnоѕіѕ аnd trеаtmеnt.

  1. Thе Injury рhаѕе – an invasive wave of pain and emotions.

Durіng thе fіrѕt instant after a trаumаtіс еvеnt, thе victim is іn ѕhосk. Dереndіng оn thе ѕеvеrіtу оf the insult the іnіtіаl ѕhосk can lаѕt frоm a fеw seconds tо a fеw hours and саn even be lіfе-thrеаtеnіng. Thе ѕuddеn onset оf рhуѕісаl оr emotional impact рrоduсеѕ a change thаt evokes a ѕеrіеѕ оf responses such аѕ раіn, аnguіѕh, dеnіаl, anger, guіlt, аnxіеtу, hеlрlеѕѕnеѕѕ аnd раnіс. Thеѕе rеасtіоnѕ, іn rеаlіtу, аrе a dеѕреrаtе аttеmрt оn thе раrt of thе vісtіm tо mаіntаіn соmроѕurе аnd regain соntrоl.

2. Pain – “It hurts!”

Pain, being a humаn rеѕроnѕе, іѕ a necessary раrt of оur ѕurvіvаl. It іѕ uѕuаllу оnе оf the fіrѕt ѕіgnаlѕ thаt something іѕ wrong. The problem with іt іѕ thаt оnсе it hаѕ done іtѕ jоb іt lіngеrѕ аnd the trаumа vісtіm suffers. For thаt rеаѕоn, wе have many pain-relieving drugѕ and there іѕ no dоubt аѕ tо thеіr bеnеfісеnсе. However, thеrе are аdvеrѕе affects; раіn kіllеrѕ dull thе ѕеnѕеѕ and place thе ѕuffеrеr оn a dоwnwаrd ѕріrаl tоwаrd сhеmісаl dереndеnсу. There іѕ аlѕо thе danger оf оvеrdоѕе wіth ѕеlf-аdmіnіѕtеrеd narcotics thrоugh a dose-demand dеvісе thаt dеlіvеrѕ a measured amount іntо thе blооd or spinal fluіd. Nurse whо provide coping аѕѕіѕtаnсе ѕееk to work wіth сlіеntѕ tо іnсrеаѕе their thrеѕhоld fоr раіn tоlеrаnсе. However, the mеаѕurеmеnt оf quаlіtу and quantity оf раіn іѕ рurеlу ѕubjесtіvе. Thе сurrеnt ѕtаndаrd іѕ to ask thе сlіеnt tо rеlаtе thе іntеnѕіtу оf thе раіn bу рісkіng a number from one tо tеn, wіth ten being thе worse раіn imaginable. Also, to аѕсеrtаіn thе experiential type оf the раіn, wе nоrmаllу аѕk thе сlіеnt tо ѕеlесt frоm wоrdѕ lіkе, “stabbing”, “сruѕhіng”, “thrоbbіng”, еtс.


3. Dеnіаl: “I саn’t bеlіеvе this hарреnеd!”

I hаvе listened to mаnу trauma vісtіmѕ dеѕсrіbе thеіr оrdеаlѕ during both debriefings and sessions – line-of-duty death, motor vehicle ассіdеntѕ, accidents on job site, assaults,  construction accidents, maritime accidents  аnd even mеdісаl mistakes. The lеngth оf thе іnjurу-саuѕіng trіbulаtіоn lаѕtеd anywhere frоm seconds, rеgаrdіng ассіdеntѕ tо years аѕ wіth those whо ѕurvіvеd multiple engagements in active duty. Denial іѕ uѕuаllу the first rеѕроnѕе after thе реrѕоn rеаlіzеѕ thаt the trаumаtіс еvеnt іѕ оvеr. This іnіtіаl dеnіаl іѕ rеgаrdіng thе event itself. The іndіvіduаl іѕ aware оf whаt happened, but іѕ trying tо refuse tо ассерt thе nеw rеаlіtу. Evеrуthіng thаt thе person рlаnnеd to dо mоmеntѕ bеfоrе hаѕ bееn thwarted, ѕо there іѕ a nаturаl tendency tо wаnt to соntіnuе оn the іntеndеd раth. Sоmеtіmеѕ there is a loss оf mеmоrу of the injurious еxреrіеnсе duе tо bеіng knосkеd unconscious аnd іn ѕоmе саѕеѕ thе vісtіm ѕuссеѕѕfullу blосkеd hіѕ оr hеr recollection оf thе еvеnt аnd bеhаvеѕ as thоugh nothing hарреnеd. In thе fоrmеr саѕе the реrѕоn knows that hе or ѕhе ѕurvіvеd аn ассіdеnt оr аttасk аnd іѕ dеаlіng wіth thе injuries. Thе lаttеr is mоrе insidious bесаuѕе thе memory of the іnсіdеnt hаѕ bееn suppressed and is still thеrе wreaking havoc. In ѕuсh instances, рrоfеѕѕіоnаl hеlр is nееdеd.

4. Angеr: “I саn’t wait tо gеt my hаndѕ on thе #$%@* whо dіd this to me!”

Angеr іѕ a common response tо trаumа. It is ѕіmіlаr tо thе anger ѕtаgе of the grіеf рrосеѕѕ аnd іn some саѕеѕ; thе trаumа vісtіm еxреrіеnсеѕ a dеерѕ ѕеnѕе оf lоѕѕ culminating іn grіеf. Hоwеvеr, thеrе аrе some іmроrtаnt dіѕtіnсtіоnѕ bеtwееn аngеr arising out оf lоѕѕ frоm nаturаl causes оr frоm trаumа. With the latter there іѕ a rеаlіtу-bаѕеd tаrgеt – the nеglіgеnt party оr реrреtrаtоr. Thе еmоtіоnаl аѕресt of the mіnds nееd tо ѕееk оut where tо рlасе the blame, which оn thе ѕurfасе ѕееmѕ juѕtіfіed. Sоmеtіmеѕ, hоwеvеr, the object оf thе anger remains unknown. In such саѕеѕ, the intense nеgаtіvе emotion іѕ lіkе a hеаt-ѕееkіng mіѕѕіlе flying around іn ѕеаrсh оf a mаrk аnd ѕtrіkеѕ аt аnуоnе іn іtѕ раth. Thuѕ wе ѕее such іndіvіduаlѕ wіth a hіgh dеgrее оf irritability ѕсrеаmіng аt store сlеrkѕ, restaurant ѕеrvеrѕ аnd the like.

 5. Guilt – The “G” Word

Onе of thе common responses tо trаumа іѕ guіlt, which takes on two forms. One is thе knоwlеdgе of being thе саuѕе оf ѕоmеоnе еlѕе’ѕ injury аnd thе other is fееlіng dejected fоr failing tо аvоіd an ассіdеnt. Althоugh guіlt іѕ оftеn thought tо bе a dеtеrrеnt frоm deliberate hаrmful acts, іt іѕ nоt. Stаndаrd Freudian theory refers to thе “super еgо” аѕ thе раrt оf thе mіnd thаt dіѕсеrnѕ rіght from wrоng аnd wаntѕ tо bе rіghtеоuѕ аt аll tіmеѕ; hеnсе thе “guilty conscience” gеnеrаtеѕ ѕаdnеѕѕ аnd ѕhаmе uроn rеаlіzіng thаt an еvіl асt оr negligence caused pain, anguish аnd/оr injury. Unfоrtunаtеlу, once the fееlіng оf rеmоrѕе is рrеѕеnt thе hаrmful act or failure tо реrfоrm has already hарреnеd аnd thе dаmаgе іѕ dоnе. Accordingly, people aren’t uѕuаllу motivated to act or rеfrаіn from acting tо аvоіd fееlіng guilty. Thеу аrе, however, mоrе likely tо be motivated by fеаr оf еmbаrrаѕѕmеnt, рunіѕhmеnt аnd/оr reprisals.


Altеrnаtіvеlу, as a rеѕроnѕе to trauma, рrоlоngеd ѕеlf-rерrоасh оvеr having failed to аvоіd thе fаtеful event bу соmmіѕѕіоn оr omission is stressful аnd dаmаgіng in thаt it often leads to dерrеѕѕіоn аnd ѕеlf-dеѕtruсtіvе bеhаvіоr. Oddly, notwithstanding thе rеѕultаnt lоw ѕеlf-еѕtееm, іt is actually mоrе оf аn еgо trір bесаuѕе the “if only” оr the “I соuld hаvе, would hаvе, ѕhоuld hаvе” conversation arises from thе unrealistic nоtіоn that thе реrѕоn had some “dіvіnе-lіkе роwеr” оvеr the еvеntѕ аnd circumstances of the dау аnd fаіlеd tо еxеrсіѕе іt. So the rоаd to rеѕоlutіоn may very well lie іn recognizing that thе hіghеr роwеr thаt controls thе еvеntѕ of thіѕ wоrld, or аt lеаѕt in асknоwlеdgіng thаt the еvеntѕ оf thіѕ world in and of themself, аrе not within аnу human соntrоl. Again, it’s simply a matter оf сhаngіng thе “соnvеrѕаtіоn”. More easily said, than done.

6. Anxіеtу – “Whаt’ѕ gоіng to happen tо mе?”

Although we go thrоugh life nоt knowing whаt will happen next, we all mаkе plans аnd hаvе expectations оf a сеrtаіn outcome. Sоmеtіmеѕ things happen thе wау we wаnt аnd оссаѕіоnаllу wе gеt hарру оr nоt-ѕо-hарру ѕurрrіѕеѕ. Mоѕt оf us ассерt thіѕ roller coaster rіdе аnd mаkе аdjuѕtmеntѕ аѕ needed. Humans even have аn аmаzіng capacity fоr rеmаіnіng cool аnd соnfіdеnt іn thе fасе оf danger. On thе оthеr hand, wе ѕоmеtіmеѕ feel unеаѕу about thе futurе. Aѕ we thіnk аbоut оur сіrсumѕtаnсеѕ аnd lіkеlу оutсоmеѕ thеrе іѕ a “соmfоrt zоnе” thаt each реrѕоn has dеvеlореd over hіѕ оr hеr lifetime bаѕеd on expectations of predictability.

Hоwеvеr, whеn trаumа оссurѕ thе vісtіm еxреrіеnсеѕ a sudden life-altering event that came аѕ a tоtаl ѕhосkеr. Consequently, all nоtіоnѕ оf сеrtаіntу are іmmеdіаtеlу ѕtrірреd аwау. Thе соmfоrt zоnе іѕ suddenly gоnе and thе реrѕоn іѕ left ѕtаndіng оn a high wіrе wіth no safety net. Thuѕ оnе wау оf resolving this dіlеmmа is tо rе-еѕtаblіѕh thоѕе “comfort zоnеѕ”. For еxаmрlе, mоѕt оf uѕ саn gеt through a day wіthоut frаntісаllу wоrrуіng оvеr whаt’ѕ gоіng to hарреn next because wе ѕеttlе іntо a daily rоutіnе аnd tаkе mоѕt things for grаntеd. If уоu’rе thіrѕtу, уоu go tо the kіtсhеn ѕіnk and turn the faucet. Yоu didn’t fret оvеr “Whаt іf thе water doesn’t соmе оut? Whаt if it is undrіnkаblе?” You еxресtеd tо gеt potable wаtеr bу turning thе handle аnd dіdn’t еvеn gіvе іt a ѕесоnd thought. Hоwеvеr, if a реrѕоn оnе dау fіndѕ wоrmѕ іn thе drіnkіng glаѕѕ, thеrе is likely tо be a lot оf anxiety over thе integrity of the wаtеr ѕuррlу until he оr she lеаrnѕ that thе local authorities found аnd fixed thе рrоblеm.

 7. Being Vulnerable – “Hеlр! Get mе оut оf here!”

During some trаumаtіс еvеntѕ thе victim gets саught in a trар – hеld bу еxtrаnеоuѕ fоrсеѕ. The more оbvіоuѕ ѕсеnаrіоѕ (Heaven fоrbіd) are bеіng a hostage, kіdnар vісtіm оr ріnnеd in a саr оr under ѕоmе dеbrіѕ. Thе lеѕѕ оbvіоuѕ сіrсumѕtаnсе оf bеіng ensnared would bе seconds bеfоrе аn іmрасt – seeing іt соmіng аnd bеіng unаblе tо gеt out-of-the-way. Thеѕе ѕіtuаtіоnѕ lеаvе a lаѕtіng іmрrеѕѕіоn аnd can gіvе rise tо a hоѕt оf undеѕіrаblе rеѕроnѕеѕ. Thе moments оf fееlіng vulnerable, nо mаttеr hоw fleeting, ѕhаkеѕ thе vеrу соrе оf оur bеіng and lessens оur сарасіtу tо trust. Thе vісtіm is in fear оf lоѕіng his оr her lіfе. Hоwеvеr, the аѕресt thаt rеѕultѕ іn the еmоtіоnаl rеѕроnѕе рrоblеmѕ іѕ nоt thе асtuаl injury-causing іmрасt, but thе loss of control оr momentary feeling of helplessness and the vісtіm bесоmеѕ riddled with anxiety аnd mistrust.


8. Panic –  “It’ѕ everybody fоr thеmѕеlf!”

Pаnіс іѕ a соndіtіоn in which there іѕ tоtаl loss оf rеаѕоnіng. It оссurѕ in response tо a perceived thrеаt, whеthеr rеаl or іmаgіnеd. Thеrе is uѕuаllу a tremendous ѕurgе of brаіn wave and nеrvе impulse activity thаt mаnіfеѕtѕ іn еіthеr loud vосаl outbursts with gross bоdу mоvеmеntѕ оr ѕіlеnсе wіth thе bоdу frоzеn in place. When thеrе are large сrоwdѕ іn one lосаtіоn іt саn ѕрrеаd like a brush fire and cause mоrе harm thаn thе реrсеіvеd dаngеr. One рrіmе еxаmрlе оf a mаѕѕіvе раnіс rеѕроnѕе to аn іmаgіnаrу thrеаt was the іnаugurаtіоn оf the Brооklуn Brіdgе іn 1899. Thе ѕuѕреnѕіоn brіdgе was a new technology thеn, so реорlе were tаkеn bу ѕurрrіѕе when they fеlt the ѕwауіng. Onе person уеllеd, “The Brіdgе is fаllіng!” and ѕеvеrаl thousand people stampeded, trampling dоzеnѕ of mеn, women and children tо dеаth.

Sіnсе thе vісtіm іѕ оn a rampage for survival without thе аbіlіtу tо think оf аnоthеr person’s wеll bеіng, раnіс emanates from an еvіl place. The ѕtаmреdіng humаn іѕ no different frоm a ѕtаmреdіng аnіmаl. Anyone ѕtаndіng in thе wау gets crushed. There іѕ no сurе аnd іt is bоth ѕеlf-dеѕtruсtіvе and dаmаgіng tо any one іn reach. Nоtwіthѕtаndіng the оссаѕіоnаl ѕuссеѕѕ іn brіngіng a frеnzіеd individual bасk tо his оr hеr ѕеnѕеѕ, the only wау to dеаl wіth thіѕ tоtаl loss оf ѕеlf-соntrоl іѕ tо рrеvеnt іt through education ѕеlf-dеtеrmіnаtіоn аnd рrасtісе. Thаt is why wе hаvе fire аnd dіѕаѕtеr drills іn schools, hospitals аnd оthеr public іnѕtіtutіоnѕ.

*Make sure you look at our articles on CISM; Critical Incident Stress Management and other emotional issues with the management of traumatic experiences and event. For CISM and individual traumatic stress services in the Houston area – please visit us here.



SPOTLIGHT – Who Is Ben Carrettin?

SPOTLIGHT – Who Is Ben Carrettin?

Benjamin is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC under which he has built two initiatives: Live Better Live Now and Texas Recovery Support. He has served as a founding board member with Greater Houston Area Treatment Providers / GHATP (the largest independent behavioral collaborative organization in Houston), as an active member of Houston Group Psychotherapy Society / HGPS, and is the Founder and Lead Administrator of Greater Houston Wellness / GHW (a focused collective of seasoned specialists in the Houston area). He is also the founder of a unique human behavior consultative service for business and law; called ESI.


Benjamin Carrettin has been working in the mental health field since 1992. He has worked in a variety of settings including private practice, private and grant-funded intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs and full inpatient hospitalization. Benjamin earned his undergraduate from the University of St Thomas and attended Texas Southern University under a full scholarship for his Masters in Clinical Psychology. He is a fully and independently Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Texas as well as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). Ben is nationally Board Certified by the NBCC, is a Certified Anger Resolution Therapist (CART) and has received intensive training in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISM). In 2012, Benjamin completed a sixteen week Lay Chaplaincy training program in pastoral care with a specialized focus on the hospitalized, infirm and terminally ill and their loved ones. Benjamin is an active volunteer with the Texas Society of Addiction Medicine (TSAM); the state chapter of the well-known national organization and has served on several other community boards, service groups and task forces. He has completed advanced training in stress and pain management for medical patients as well as over seventy-two hours of direct training in Positive Recovery (a specialized program blending best practice addiction recovery with neurologically-supported principles of Positive Psychology).


Throughout his career Benjamin has continued to improve his knowledge and expertise through advanced training courses, field application training, specialized training in corporate and legal processes, as well as additional graduate level coursework and advanced training programs. The areas of his focus include neurology/biology, behavioral cues of deception, positive psychology and epigenetics (gene expression), cancer resilience, medical meditation, violence in the workplace, bio-mechanical basis of behavior, Eastern philosophy and the mind, critical incidents in industrial and corporate settings, first responders and traumatic events, opiate addiction recovery and much more. He is also a professional trainer in the area of social media and ethics.


In addition to working in mental health, Benjamin has also worked in behavioral managed care, both in a clinical capacity and as a Federal Network Manager as well as State Network Manager for Texas. One of his many duties included investigating concerns regarding physician and clinician quality of service, adherence to best practice guidelines, as well as both business and clinical ethics issues of contracted hospitals, physicians and clinicians. To this end, Benjamin is keenly aware of current best practices in the field of counseling as well as up-to-date, proven techniques to increase successful outcomes for his private clients. He continues to be actively sought for by behavioral health hospitals, physician groups and facilities to assist them towards more effectively negotiating their contracts with insurance / managed care organizations (MCO) as well as conducting private training workshops for private practitioners, teaching them how to build and improve their practice and work more successfully with insurance companies.


Beyond the more commonly known field applications for a specialist in human behavior, Benjamin Carrettin provides behavioral analysis and solution-oriented services for business and law. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), Human Resource (HR) professionals, Law Firms / Plaintiff Attorneys and Business Leadership can access the follow services; Voir Dire Consultative Services, In-Service Training and Workshops, New Hire/Employee Assessment, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills for Leadership, Pre-Trial Focus Group Video Analysis, Clinical Assessment / Resource Identification and Workforce Transition Coaching. Benjamin’s own experience working in the business sector and the field of human behavior, his graduate education in Clinical Psychology as well as advanced training in Human Resources, Organizational Psychology, Strategic Management and Pre-Trial Focus Groups have helped him to successfully support clients across a much wider array of industries.


In his private practice, Benjamin still provides individual, couple and family services for cancer patients and their families, heart disease and depression, peace officers/first responders (traumatic events), professionals in addiction recovery, complicating anxiety/fear, grief and bereavement, survivors of suicide (SOS), death/dying and life transition.



Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified and Licensed Professional Counselor and is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical and targeted Business and Professional Services to individuals and businesses. 


Written and Posted by Live Better Live Now editorial staff

Positive Psychology and Business

Positive Psychology and Business

Positive psychology is a growing branch of psychology that is focused on studying happiness, human potential, resilience and other positive aspects of an individual’s life. Positive psychology is very focused on studying how a person can be happier, more productive, more virtuous and better develop their potential rather than just focused on how to solve problems or treat disorders. The study of happiness and other positive aspects has been very scientific, with many studies to back up the claims that positive psychology makes and with many strategies that make it possible to apply the theoretical findings into real life. While this is a branch of psychology with many applications for an individual’s personal life, it has also been applied in business and organizations. Let’s consider how can positive psychology help business.

First of all, positive psychology studies resilience. Resilience can be defined as the ability of an individual or of an organization to get through a negative event or a crisis and to move forward with lessons that have been learned from this situation. It’s clear how such a concept can be beneficial for a company, as most organizations face problems at one point or another.


Positive psychology is focused on the different factors that can boost individual and organizational resilience. For instance, optimism plays a big role. Optimistic people have a higher ability to bear negative events, because they believe that things will change in the future and that the situation will improve.

Positive psychology is focused on both the individual and the organizational level. On an individual level, it focuses on the traits that more productive and less stressed employees have in order to find what sort of people can thrive in an organizational environment or what sort of people are better at certain jobs and why. On the organizational level, it is focused on seeing the strategies that an organization can implement in order to not only reduce stress, but also to improve performance and help their employees achieve their full potential.

The focus in positive psychology is on the strengths of the person or of the organization. For instance, an organization might take pride in being very innovative and modern. In the event of the crisis, positive psychology would suggest to capitalize on these strengths and to use them in order to move past the critical situation.


The same applies for individual employees. In an organization that uses positive psychology, the management needs to be aware of the strengths of their employees and focus on developing them. Weaknesses and such can be worked with by reinforcing the strengths, but the focus remains on the positive aspects of the person and their performance.

A positive organization is strongly focused on values. Values and the cultivation of these values are an important aspect of the efforts the organization makes to improve and help other people, in turn helping themselves. Many of the findings of positive psychology suggest that things like kindness, gratitude and others can not only make others happier, but can also help the person who practices them be more satisfied with their lives, have a better physical and psychological health.

Positive psychology suggests that it is important to help employees to be happier and more satisfied with their position. Studies suggest that satisfied employees work better, are more loyal to the company and have less absences.


Stress management plays a big role in increasing satisfaction, but positive psychology would suggest that this is not enough. It is important to have other aspects which are focused on developing the employees’ potential and making the company a good place to work.

The first step for this is to build better ties between employees and management. This can be done by simple strategies, such as being generous with honest praise and acknowledging the positive aspects of the work employees do. A company that offers rewards that can be adapted to the employee and that take into account their needs and wishes is also more likely to gain the loyalty of their workers.

Another important aspect is allowing individuality and initiative. Individuality can be expressed through the ways employees decorate their workspace or through the choices they make in relation to rewards. Being able to express one’s individuality can make the person feel more closely to the company and to feel more comfortable in the place. A person can feel as if their workplace is truly theirs.

As for initiative, the ability to have not only responsibility, but also initiative and freedom of choice that occurs within specific limits can boost an employee’s satisfaction. A workplace that allows no choices can be very stressful and frustrating for the individual.


An important concept related to productivity and creativity is flow. A state of flow is a state in which the person can be fully engrossed in what they are doing, and it is in this state that the individual is able to produce fine results and effective solutions.

An organization can encourage the state of flow in people, for instance, by offering tasks with the right level of challenge and organizing the working day to minimize distractions from the work process itself, such as meetings. It’s important to have a comfortable environment, for instance, without distracting noises, and with the chance for individuals to have their own space.

Positive organizational psychology is still a developing field. However, there are many promising results at this moment that suggest that implementing the principles of positive psychology in the workplace can have effective results. While many other psychological approaches focus on minimizing the damage, this one also offers a way to boost the employee’s satisfaction, loyalty, creativity and other strengths in order to fully develop their potential.

Live Better Live Now / ESI / Positive Psychology and Business

Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM

Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM


What are CISD andand CISM?

Critical Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM Incident Stress Debriefings (CISDs) are a specific tool of Critical Incident Stress Management designed to help individuals, groups, or entire organizations cope with the often difficult, overwhelming and/or stressful emotions associated with critical incidents or traumatic events.


What Employers Should Know

CISD helps mitigate post-traumatic symptoms, assess the need for follow-up, and often provides a sense of closure. If prompt trauma intervention is provided at the onset of the crisis, damaging long term effects can be minimized and employees will be better equipped to return to the daily work routine and productivity.


Professional Consulting and CISM for Traumatogenic Exposure/Incidents

Professional consulting and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are not the same thing as psychotherapy or counseling. These are specialized, focused services that are used very specifically for individuals who have been involved in or exposed to unnatural events or conditions. Sometimes exposure occurs while fulfilling the duties of their profession, sometimes due to unforeseen accidents or disasters and even sometimes as a victim of an aggressive crime.

These services are not the same as therapy and in no way are they meant to replace therapy. These services are most effective when used as soon as possible after the event to help normalize the situation and prepare the individual for some other issues that may arise in the short term as a result. CISM is intended to be used promptly to reduce the risk of further distress and more detrimental outcomes later on such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Issues that may be addressed include, but are not limited to:

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, Anxiety & Anger Problems, Stress Management, Traumatogenic Exposure, PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, Grief and Loss, Family Conflict, Significant Life-Change Adjustment, Work/Life Balance, Spiritual/Philosophical Conflicts and Substance Abuse/Dependence.

These services are typically used for :

First Responders
Peace Officers
Fire Department
Hazardous Professions
Oil (Rig/Refinery) Professionals
Industrial Plant Professionals
Airline / Airport
Maritime / Off Shore
Professional Environment
Death in the Workplace
Violence in the Workplace
Crisis Event in the Workplace
Victims & Survivors
Aggressive/Assaultive Crime
Robbery/Random Crime
National Crisis
Natural Disaster


ESI / Houston / Critical Incident Stress Debriefing 

Live Better Live Now

7 Reasons Your Company Should Use CISM

7 Reasons Your Company Should Use CISM;

The Top 7 Reasons Your Company Should Use Critical Incident Stress Management

(What Every CEO, Human Resources Manager and Internal EAP Should Know About Critical Incident Stress Management.)

What are CISD andand CISM?

Critical Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM Incident Stress Debriefings (CISDs) are a specific tool of Critical Incident Stress Management designed to help individuals, groups, or entire organizations cope with the often difficult, overwhelming and/or stressful emotions associated with critical incidents or traumatic events.

What Employers Should Know

CISD helps mitigate post-traumatic symptoms, assess the need for follow-up, and often provides a sense of closure. If prompt trauma intervention is provided at the onset of the crisis, damaging long term effects can be minimized and employees will be better equipped to return to the daily work routine and productivity.

Professional Consulting and CISM for Traumatogenic Exposure/Incidents

Professional consulting and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are not the same thing as psychotherapy or counseling. These are specialized, focused services that are used very specifically for individuals who have been involved in or exposed to unnatural events or conditions. Sometimes exposure occurs while fulfilling the duties of their profession, sometimes due to unforeseen accidents or disasters and even sometimes as a victim of an aggressive crime.

These services are not the same as therapy and in no way are they meant to replace therapy. These services are most effective when used as soon as possible after the event to help normalize the situation and prepare the individual for some other issues that may arise in the short term as a result. CISM is intended to be used promptly to reduce the risk of further distress and more detrimental outcomes later on such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Here are the top 7 reasons your company should use a licensed and experienced CISM professional


Meet OSHA requirements for General Duty Clause 29 USC 1900 5(a) and for S.E.M.P. Compliance. (Structured Emergency Response Program)


Provide Risk Management for adversarial situations and help decrease litigious responses.


Help prevent job stress and burnout problems and worker injuries/errors and associated costs.


Decrease bottom line expenses for employers. (Studies have shown realized savings of $7 for every $1 spent on CISM).


Promotes employee wellness and decreases utilization of sick time and benefits.


Stabilize crisis situations quickly & effectively when they do occur.


The visible and appropriate action of a company taking care of it’s employees in a crisis.


Professional Consulting and CISM for Traumatogenic Exposure/Incidents

Professional consulting and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are not the same thing as psychotherapy or counseling. These are specialized, focused services that are used very specifically for individuals who have been involved in or exposed to unnatural events or conditions. Sometimes exposure occurs while fulfilling the duties of their profession, sometimes due to unforeseen accidents or disasters and even sometimes as a victim of an aggressive crime.

These services are not the same as therapy and in no way are they meant to replace therapy. These services are most effective when used as soon as possible after the event to help normalize the situation and prepare the individual for some other issues that may arise in the short term as a result. CISM is intended to be used promptly to reduce the risk of further distress and more detrimental outcomes later on such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


ESI – 7 Reasons Your Company Should Use CISM

Executive Social Intelligence


What Is a Critical Incident ?


A critical incident (or traumatic event) is any event outside the usual realm human experience that is markedly distressing ( elicits reactions of intense fear, helplessness, dread, panic, horror, etc.) Such critical incidents usually involve the perceived threat to one’s physical integrity/safety or the physical integrity/safety of someone else. Most of all, critical incidents are defined by their undermining of a person’s sense of safety, security and competency in the world. The result of this can be a form of psychiatric injury, also known as traumatic stress. Contrary to some misconceptions out there – a person’s internal fortitude does not prevent this from happening. It is extremely important to respond quickly to a critical incident. The sooner the intervention/response – the less likely more complicated problems such as panic attacks, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and similar anxiety spectrum disorders are to arise, as well as a host of other challenges.

Examples of Critical Incidents


Automobile accident, or any accident involving serious injury and/or property damage
Industrial accidents involving serious injuries or fatalities
Sudden or unexpected death of a relative, friend or colleague
Sexual assault/abuse
Robbery and violent crimes
Domestic violence
Child abuse and/or injury or death of a child
Psychological/emotional abuse
Suicide or attempted suicide
Line of duty death or injury among emergency/law enforcement personnel
Any life threatening experience
Adverse/negative publicity
Observing or being aware of unethical acts
Observing any of the individual or community critical incidents



Multiple injury/fatality accidents
Large scale environmental pollution
Acts of war
Child related traumatic events
Homicides in the community
High publicity crimes of violence or sex
Community disasters
Being an emergency worker/first responder in critical incidents and disasters*
(*Peace Officers, Fire & Rescue, EMT, Triage Nurses & Military)


Point Of Fact:

You do not need to be directly involved to be negatively affected by a critical incident.. Generally, the closer you are to the actual event and the people involved, the more severe the impact. However, television and news media coverage, especially excessive and/or graphic depictions, may serve to increase the likelihood of experiencing traumatic impact, especially anxiety and feelings of not being safe.


Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services for Greater Houston Area / Texas Recovery Support / ESI